Coffee, Tea or Bonnox Themed Crime Books

New Year & Over 40 Recommendations from the Latest SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

Welcome to 2016 and the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library crime & mystery book club's latest recommendations. All of them read over the holiday period. Click on the books listed below for reviews and information. Enjoy.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

Her Royal Spyness Mysteries by Rhys Bowen

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Play Dead by Bill James

The Fall of Man in Wilmslow; The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh

Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School for Villainy by Shamini Flint

Shoulder The Sky by Anne Perry

Chosen Perry by Karen Grigsby Bates

Smoke and Mirrors by Kel Robertson

Grandad, There's A Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill

City of the Dead by Sara Gran

The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby

Dishing The Dirt by M.C. Beaton

Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith

Even Days in the Wild by Ian Rankin

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

Dictator by Robert Harris

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

The Whites by Richard Price

The Spies of Warsaw; The Polish Officer; The World At Night by Alan Furst

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia Macneal

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

Looking for Rachel Wallace by Robert B Parker

The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman

Singing the Sadness by Reginald Hill

Three Crooked Kings by Matthew Condon

Red Mass by Rosemary Aubert

The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Georges Simenon

Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner

Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer

A Morning for Flamingos by James Lee Burke

Acute Misfortune - The Life & Death of Adam Cullen by Erik Jensen

The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

See you next month.


Mystery Novels featuring a Celebration or Festival from the SMSA Library Crime Book Club

The last set of recommendations of crime novels for the year feature a celebration or festival. The Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library Crime and Mystery Book Club meets once a month and you will be able to find next year's list of themes here at the library website - There are also some reviews done by readers.  

The Body in the Transept by Jeanne MDams             

Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander           

Michaelmas Tribute by Cora Harrison                 

Burial Rites by Hannah Alexander                         

Wycliffe and the Last Rites by W J Burley                       

The Feast of Stephen; and The Ferryman Will Be There by Rosemary Aubert                          

The Christmas Bow Murder by Bill Battison                     

St Peter’s Fair by Ellis Peters                                       

A Christmas Escape; and A Christmas Garland by Anne Perry                      

Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M C Beaton                               

The Advent Killer by Alastair Gunn                    

The Guilty by David Baldacci               

Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews               

Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman                                      

Twelve Drummers Drumming by C C Benison                      

Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month the topic was interesting authors. This gave us another wide range of choices and suggestions from old staples such as Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham to buried treasures like Eric Ambler, all who lived very interesting lives. The library at the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts has a great selection of crime fiction, science fiction, romance and biographies. More so than the typical municiple library. It is in the heart of the city and is a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle of the streets.  You can find out more about it here.

Angel Court Affair by Anne Perry
This is a Charlotte and William Pitt novel, the 30th one actually. Set in Victorian London, William Pitt is a policeman who is married to Charlotte, who is from the aristocracy. As it is the 30th novel, William has risen through the ranks and as the characters have aged through the books. This is a very popular crime series and you get more joy out of reading this novel if you have read previous ones as it is just as much about the characters as it is about plot. Anne Perry was chosen as an interesting author due to her past that came to light in 2003. When she was 15 years old and living in New Zealand, she and her best friend killed the best friend's mother. The story was made into a movie, Heavenly Creatures, by Peter Jackson.  Perry served her time and changed her name upon release. If you would like to read more, click here

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
Murder in Mesopotamia is Agatha Christie's 14th novel and was published in 1936. It is set on an archeological dig in what is now Iraq and features Hercule Poirot, the infamous Belgian detective. Agatha Christie is most probably the most famous crime writer of the early 20th century and you can read about her here. What we are highlighting is those 10 days she disappeared in 1926. Her first husband, Archie, asked for a divorce as he was in love with another woman, and Christie, already a famous author, drove away from her house in Berkshire in early December, not to be seen for over 10 days. There was a nationwide hunt for Christie, with hundreds of volunteers and the press spinning theories and accusations of foul play as her car was found abandoned. There was so much speculation that contempories, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L Sayers were drawn into solving the puzzle. She was found registered under a false name living in a hotel in Yorkshire in mid-December. Christie claimed to have no memory of the missing days, but soon returned to her life. She divorced Archie in 1928 and remarried in 1930 to archeologist Max Mallowan, whom she travelled with extensively.   

An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson
We have written about Josephine Tey previously, with the usual top level biographical information on the author. Josephine Tey is a pseudonym for Elizabeth Mackintosh, who was born in Inverness, Scotland. Not much is known about her as she was very private and did not give interviews. Here is what we know: She was a physical education teacher in England until her mother died in 1926 and she returned to Inverness to care for her father; she had a fiancé who died in World War One and never married; she was an accomplished gymnast; she started writing when she lived in Inverness; her writing also included plays which were published under the name Gordon Daviot; she wrote a play for John Gielgud and they became lifelong friends; she referred to her detective novels as her yearly knitting; in 1950 her father died and she moved to Stratham, south England and increased her writing output. An Expert in Murder features a fictional Josephine Tey who solves a murder in the London theatre district in the 1930s at the time the real Josephine Tey was writing plays. This fictional Tey works with Detective Inspector Archie Penrose to find the killer of a young woman who in some way is connected to her latest play. An Expert in Murder (2008) is Upson’s debut, she has written six more featuring the fictional Tey

Better to Rest by Dana Stabenow
Better To Rest is the fourth Liam Campbell novel by Dana Stabenow. Stabenow was born in Anchorage, Alaska in 1950, and she writing crime fiction, science fiction and historical adventures. Stabenow brings the experiences of living in Alaska to vivid life in her crime novels. You can read more about it hereAccording to an article written by Claire E. White in conversation with Stabenow in 2000, "she was raised on a 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. Her mother was a deckhand on a salmon tender called the Celtic, for five years, from the time Dana was in the third grade. Dana and her mother lived on board most of the time. After falling into the hold with a load of fresh fish one day, she refused to eat salmon again until she was 35. When she wasn't seasick, she wrote stories about normal children who lived on shore, and made her mother read them. She claims this was probably some of her best work.”

The Discourtesy of Death and The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick
According to Goodreads, ‘William Broderick was born in Bolton, Lancashire in 1960. Having lived in Canada since he was eleven, he went to school in Australia and England, and went on to take a BA in Philosophy and Theology, then a MTh (Master of Theology) and a Degree of Utter Barrister. Brodrick worked on a logging camp in British Columbia, Canada, before joining the Augustinian Friars (1979-1985). He began his life as a friar in Dublin, Ireland, based on a farm that deployed Iron Age techniques bringing him very close to nature. After several years as a friar, he left the order to help set up a charity at the request of Cardinal Hume, The Depaul Trust, which worked with homeless people. In 1991 he became a barrister. He holds British and Canadian citizenship and is married with three children with whom he lives in France.” 

Murder in the Frame by Dave Warner
Murder in the Frame is a light crime novel featuring a former rock star and recluse Andrew ‘The Lizard’ Zirk and is set in Australia. It is the second book in the series written by Dave Warner who is a former punk rocker. In the 1970s he formed the punk band Pus. He formed his next band, The Suburbs in 1977. This band was more successful with a number of hit singles. By the 1980s Warner started to diversify and he wrote a theatre revue, The Sensational Sixties, and later The Sixties and All That Pop. He started writing screenplays in the 2000s, both movies and episodes of Australian TV programs. He wrote his first novel, a crime story, City of Light, which was published in 1995. He started his Andrew Zirk novels in 1998.

The Secret of the Garden by Arthur Gask
Englishman Arthur Gask was born in London in 1869. He trained to become a dentist, which he would be his day job until he died in 195. He married in 1898  and had four children. He divorced and married his children’s nanny in 1909 and had another two children. He and his second wife and their children moved to Adelaide, Australia in 1920. He set up a practice and self-funded the publication of his first book, The Secret of the Sand Hills in 1921. It sold well and he was taken on by a London publisher. He wrote more than a crime novel a year, often set in Adelaide. Many of them became best sellers. He wrote 30 crime novels featuring his main character, Gilbert Larose, 14 short stories and four standalone crime novels. The Secret of the Garden (1924) is a standalone crime novel.

The Fear of the Sign by Margery Allingham and her biography by Julia Thorougood
Born in Ealing, London in 1904, Margery Allingham was the daughter of writers. Not writers of literature in the traditional sense of the word, but of more popular writing, such as stories for women’s magazines (her mother) and pulp stories (her father). She always wrote stories and plays as a young girl, getting published for the first time at the age of eight in her aunt’s magazine. She studied at the Regent Street Polytechnic studying drama and speech-training (she had a stammer since childhood) where she met her husband Philip Youngman Carter, whom he marries in 1927. Her first novel, Blackkerchief Dick was published in 1923, Allingham was 19 years old. It featured occult themes that continued to be prevelent in many of her subsequent novels. This book was not a commercial success, so Allingham wrote some plays and attempted to write a ‘serious’ novel, soon discovering that she preferred a more light-hearted approach. She began writing crime stories. The Crime at Black Dudley was published in 1929. It introduced Albert Campion, who was a minor character in this story. Her publishers encouraged her to develop Campion into her main protagonist and feature him in her next story. She wrote another 16 books and 20 short stories with Campion at the centre. Allingham died from breast cancer at 62 years old. Her final book was completed by her husband.

Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler
This is a great article about Eric Ambler that was published in The Guardian. It really explores his work and life. No point in writing anything further here. Just click on it and read about his life here.


The Competition by Marcia Clark
Marcia Clark has written four crime novels featuring her Los Angeles District Attorney Rachel Knight, in addition to some short stories and a non-fiction chronicling Clark’s famous trial as a LA prosecutor, the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995.  She was the prosecutor for the State of California at the time and took on the case herself, along with Christopher Darden, a 15 year veteran of the LA District Attorney’s office. Former American football star, actor and entertainment personality, O.J. Simpson was prosecuted for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. As a suspect, he was infamously chased through the streets of Los Angeles by the police, driving a black bronco SVU. Filmed by the TV news, this chase became the beginning of a sensational trial that found Simpson not guilty.  Although Clark failed to make her case, Simpson did not ultimately end up a free man. He was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping in 2007. You can read about it here

Coornaki the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson
According to Wikipedia, “Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder is a collection of occult detective short stories by author William Hope Hodgson. It was first published in 1913.” So early pulp fiction. Hodgson was English, the son of an Anglican priest and his wife. He was the second of 12 children and three of his siblings died as young children. The death of a child is a common theme in his work. Hodgson ran away to sea at 13 years old, he was caught and returned to his family, but he did receive permission to become a cabin boy from his father. He was apprenticed for four years, and during that time his father died and Hodgson was left to help support his family. After his apprenticeship he studied and received his mate’s certificate, as such becoming a full time sailor and paid for his services. He was bullied at sea which led him to begin a program of personal training, whereby he developed his body. He was short and of a sensitive nature, with what was described as a beautiful face. He was a target who could now defend himself. In addition to physical health, Hodgson took up photography, honed his marksmanship and kept a journal about his time at sea. At 22 years of age, in 1899, he opened the W. H. Hodgson’s School of Physical Culture, in Blackburn, England. A personal trainer of sorts, who had amongst his clients, members of the Blackburn police force. He courted publicity by appearing on stage in handcuffs and escaping, like Harry Houdini, and doing other feats of physical strength. He discovered in a few years that he could not make a living as a personal trainer and closed down his business. He turned to writing and began to write articles for journals and magazines in 1903. He published his first short story in 1904 and his first novel in 1907. His stories we adventure tales with elements of horror and thrilling crimes. They were popular and he was able to earn a living, even if it was a meagre living. In 1912 Hodgson married and moved to the south of France, as it was cheaper than England. He continued to write. When war broke out in 1914, they returned to England. He joined the University of London’s Officers’ Training Corps and received a commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He was injured in 1916 by being thrown from a horse and was given a mandatory discharge. He refused to stay out of the war and recovered enough to re-enlist. He continued to write articles during this time, mainly about his war experience. He was killed in Ypres in April 1918.

Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno
This is seen as the definitive biography of the author of Catcher In The Rye (1951) and Franny and Zooey (1961). Shane Salerno also did a documentary on Salinger released in 2013 and is seen as a companion piece to the biography. He was an unusual man, who had issues with his own identity and had an unusual relationship with the women in his life. You can read about this more here. He fought in World War Two and was affected quite deeply by his experiences. His writing reflects this as well as his ever changing beliefs. Salinger isolated himself and whoever the woman in his life was and his tendency to more extreme approaches to life had him dabble in many 'isms' including early work by L. Ron Hubbard. We recommend reading the biography or watching the documentary to try and understand this quite peculiar man.

Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month we focused on crimes and mysteries set during a natural disaster. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in New Orleans was featured in three of the choices and the Great Earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco was the centre of two. One of our members got creative and included books set during the two World Wars, which were not technically natural disasters but disasters nonetheless.

The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason
Published in 2004, The Draining Lake is the fourth Detective Erlendur books from award winning Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason.  Based on an acutal Icelandic lake, Kleifarvatn, which began draining away in 2000 following an earthquake. In this story, the draining lake reveals a body. Erlendur investigates this cold case (no pun intended) which delves into the political and social history of Iceland with left-wing students during the time of communist East Germany during the Cold War. 

This is a great novel fulled with pathos and realism. Indridason is a master storyteller and any books written by him are well worth it.

First the Dead by Tim Downs
First of the Hurricane Katrina novels read this month, First The Dead is the third in the Bug Man series that features forensci entomologist Dr Nick Polchak who volunteers for the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT), which is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the USA. This is a real life organisation that responds to disasters such aeroplane crashes, fires and hurricanes. The volunteers are doctors, nurses, pathologists, scientists and in the case of Polchak, a forensic entomologist, who deploy and work very hard over a short period of time to identify and investigate the bodies of victims of these disasters.  Polchak is an unusual protagonist, but very likeable and the insight into the bureaucracy that was involved during the actual natural disaster that was Hurricane Katrina and the additional disaster which was the lack of assistance and clean up that followed. 

Tim Downs crafts a well written dialogue driven story that is a quick and interesting read. He creates scene and atmosphere through very natural dialogue. Downs has written five Bug Man novels and this is what he says about these novels on his blog, 'my Bug Man stories are not about the bugs—they’re about a man who thinks he’s a bug. Why does he think that? Why would he want to? What’s wrong with him? What was it in his past that made him that way? Will he ever change? Can he? And is there a woman anywhere who could love a man like that? Anyone who has read one of my novels will tell you that that’s what my stories are really about. The bugs—well, they’re just bugs. - See more at:'

Bony and The Black Virgin by Arthur Upfield
Arthur Upfield's Detective Inspector Napolen Bonaparte (Bony) series from the outback in Australia from 1920s to 1960s features a natural disaster in Bony and The Black Virgin. Bony (a mixed race Australian, his mother was an Aboriginal woman and his father is a white man) is called into investigate the death of two men on a desolate sheep station in outback New South Wales, in the middle of a drought. The men have been beaten to death and it is up to Bony to find out what happened. As usual, Bony is discounted as an investigator because of his heritage and the inherent racism in Australian culture in regards to Aboriginal people.

Upfield is an Englishman who immigrated to Australia in 1910 and wrote copiously about rural Australia, the outback, Aboriginal culture as well as white Australia. His Bony series is an insight into the cultural and social history of Australia.  

Bad Karma In The Big Easy by D. J. Donaldson
Featuring Chief Medical Examiner, Andy Broussard and forensic psychologist Kit Franklin, this seventh novel from Donaldson focuses on the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is August 2005 and Broussard is identifying bodies from the natural disaster. He is intrigued by the bodies of three women who apparently died of foul play and calls in Kit to help him solve the mystery.

Donaldson is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology from the University of Tennessee and his New Orleans forensic mysteries featuring Broussard and Franklin and his medical thrillers have a strong understanding of science and medicine that gives them a level of authinticity. His writing style is described as 'a hard-hitting, punchy, action-packed prose that’s dripping with a folksy, decidedly southern sense of irony.'

The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke
Two of our members read this James Lee Burke novel that focused on Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.  The Tin Roof Blowdown is the sixteenth Dave Robicheaux novel and it follows a number of smaller stories until they meet up against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina. In an interview with Reuters in 2007 when doing publicity for this book, Burke (then 70 years old) said "If you want to know about a society, look at it from the bottom up." This is a personal novel for Burke and in that age old tradition of using crime fiction to look at society he crafts a novel that is full of rage and disgust for the events of Hurricane Katrina. 

James Lee Burke has written over 30 novels, 20 of which are the Robicheaux series. Burke has won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel of the year in 1990 for Black Cherry Blues, and again in 1998 he won the Edgar for Best Novel for Cimarron Rose. In 2009 he received the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award. 

Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson
Issac's Storm is a non-fiction novel about the hurricane that devestated Galvastan, Texas on 8 September 1900. Issac Cline was the resident meterologist for the US Weather Bureau who witnessed and was taken by surprise by a massive hurricane that caused Galvastan to be flooded,  completely destroying the town and killing over six thousand people. It is seen as the greatest natural disaster in American history.  This hurricane killed more people than Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which Katrina killed at least 1,836 people and inflicted damages estimated at around $125 billion.

Erik Larson is an American journalist and non-fiction author. According to wikipedia, he started writing books in 1992 with' The Naked Consumer: How Our Private Lives Become Public Commodities, followed in 1995 by Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun, Issac's Storm (1999)....and The Devil in the White City (2003), about the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and a series of murders by H. H. Holmes that were committed in the ciyt around the time of the Fair....In 2006, Larson published Thunderstruck, which intersperses the story of Hawley Harvey Crippen with that of Guglielmo Marconi and the investion of radio....In the Garden of Beasts (2011), concerns William E. Dodd, the first Amercian ambassador to Nazi Germany.'

An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
An Unmarked Grave is the fourth Bess Crawford mystery set during World War One. Bess is a nurse and amateur investigator who becomes involved in investigating the murder of an officer, whose body is hidden amongst the numerous dead from the frontline and the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The pandemic infected 500 million people across the world and killed 50 to 100 million of them. That is about three to five percent of the world's population at the time. 

Charles Todd is the pen name for Caroline and Charles Todd, the mother-son writing team from USA. In addition to the Bess Crawford mysteries, they have also written the Inspector Ian Rutledge series set in England just after World War One.  

Shoulder The Sky by Anne Perry
Anne Perry is known for her Victorian crime novels featuring Thomas Pitt and a second Victorian series featuring William Monk. Anne Perry is a prolific writer and has written over 80 novels since 1979.

Shoulder The Sky is the second in Perry's World War One series. It crisscrosses from the trenches, back to London and the intelligence work going on, back Ypres and Gallipoli through three protagonists - siblings Captain Joseph Reavley (an Army Chaplain), Judith who is a driver for General Cullingford and Matthew who is a British Intelligence Officer.

Ashes to Ashes by Barbara Nadel
Set during the London Blitz in World War Two, this third Frances Hancock novel focuses on people sheltering in St Paul's Catherdral during the bombing raids. Hancock is one of those people in St Pauls and becomes involved when a young girl disappears during the night. Hanock is a World War One veteran and undertaker and is half-Indian makes an interesting protagonist as he is quite peculiar but likeable. The book is really about atmosphere and setting and if you like to sink into the era, this will be a good read for you.

English writer, Barbara Nadel is known for her Inspector Çetin İkmen novels (all 15 of them) set in Turkey. There are four books in the Hancock series and she has started on a third series featuring Hakim and Arnold set currently in East Ham in East London, UK. East Ham is an immigrant and low socio-economic neighbourhood and private investigator, Lee Arnold, works with his assistant Mumtaz Hakim, a widowed Muslim working mother.  Sounds interesting. 

Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr
Policeman Bernie Gunther came into being in the Berlin Noir trilogy set in the lead up to World War Two in Berlin, Germany. Prague Fatale is the eighth Bernie Gunther novel and it is now September 1941 and Bernie has returned home to Berlin from the horrors of the Eastern Front. He is invited by his old boss Reinhard Heydrich of the SD, the new Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia to spend a weekend at Heydrich's country house in Prague. In the midst of war there is a murder for Bernie to solve.  Like his previous novels, Philip Kerr explores World War Two from the perspective of the Germans who just try to survive Hitler's Nazi regime and the war they find themselves in. Fighting for ideals they do not believe in.  These books are quite depressing, however there is an element of black humour throughout.  

Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King
Laurie R. King is the creator of the popular Sherlock Holmes pastiche featuring Mary Russell (the American wife of Sherlock Holmes). Locked Rooms in the eighth Mary Russell novel and it is set in 1906 in San Francisco during the Great Earthquake. They are in San Francisco to settle some legal affairs related to Mary's family. The earthquake and the city is the backdrop to peeling back the history of Mary's family and the unexplained deaths that are happening around them.  

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Published in 2012, The Last Policeman is the first in a trilogy set in the last six months of earth's existence. There is an asteroid heading towards earth and everyone is reacting in their own way. Some people are committing suicide, some are giving up their everyday life and doing what they please. One of those people is a young twenty something policeman in Concord, New Hampshire, Hank Palace, who is promoted from patrolman to Detective and insists on investigating a suspicious hanging in the time remaining. Ben Winters is known for his 2009 bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, however he won an Edgar Award for The Last Policeman and has finished writing the trilogy this year.

Acts of Nature by Jonathon King
This is the fifth Max Freeman novel by Jonathon King featuring Max and his paramour Detective Sherry Richards who head to the Florida everglades for some time off and find themselves in the middle of a tense situation involving looters, killers and corporations during a hurricane. Not your average holiday then. Jonathon King used to be a journalist with a couple of US city newspapers before he created private investigator Max Freeman in 2012. His books are written in a hard boiled style and set on the streets of South Florida. 

The Last Nightingale by Anthony Flacco
This is another novel set during the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906. It teams up 12 year old Shane Nightingale who witnesses the killing of his adoptive mother and sisters the night of the earthquake. He starts to work with Sergeant Randall Blackburn who is investigating the killings. According to Bookreporter, Anthony Flacco "is the author of numerous nonfiction books and novels. He holds an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute, where he was honored with the Paramount Studios Fellowship Award and a Disney Studios Fellowship." This more visual/screenwriting approach is noticeable in this novel as it feels like it is written with a movie adaptation in mind.

Recommendations from the SMSA Mystery & Crime Book Club

It is time for this month's recommendations of books from the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Mystery and Crime Book Club.  The focus in partners in crime.

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Murder on the High Seas by Conrad Allen
Murder of the High Seas is Conrad Allens's series of crime novels featuring ship detectives George Porter Dillman and Genevieve Masefield in the early 20th Century.  George and Genevieve work undercover and solve murders, fraud and theft for various passenger ocean liner companies.  These books are wonderful light romps that give you an insight into class, society and the history of the time.


Mortal Mischief by Frank Tallis
Mortal Mischief is the first book in the Liebermaan Papers series set in Vienna from 1902 to 1914.  According to Frank Tallis' website, "It was a time of unprecedented activity in the worlds of philosophy, science and the arts. The coffee houses of Vienna became lively debating societies, in which the political, social, and cultural agenda of the 20th century was set. Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schoenberg, Arthur Schnitzler, Gustav Klimt, Theodor Herzl, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Gustav Mahler, were all neighbours; however, at the same time, Vienna was playing host to a quite different set of thinkers. German mystics, social Darwinists, and race theorists whose ideas would eventually be consolidated under the banner of Hitler’s National Socialism."  The partners in crime  are Dr. Max Liebermann is a psychoanalyst and disciple of Sigmund Freud and his friend Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt, who enjoy musical evenings together when they are not investigating crimes.  Oskar often calls on Max's psychoanalytic knowledge.  Mortal Mischief is a great slice of historical crime with flourish and detail about Vienna and, what sounds like, the most delicious Austrian desserts and coffee.


False Intentions by Arlene Hunt
Arlene Hunt is an Irish crime writer who has set her series of novels around rookie detectives Sarah Kenny and John Quigley and their ailing detective agency, QuicK, in Dublin, Ireland. Set in modern times, False Intentions is Hunt's second novel, but the first about Kenny and Quigley.  The story  is a fast paced thriller with a vivid portrayal of Dublin's seedy underbelly of drugs and prostitution.

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The Collini Case by Ferdinand Von Schirach
German Ferdinand Von Schirach writes intricate court room dramas when he is not being a lawyer.  Set in Berlin, the book quickly describes the murder and the subsequent surrender of the murderer, Collini.  Young up and coming Public Defender, Caspar Leinen accepts the case and works hard to defend his uncooperative client.  The novel delves into Germany's past as well as that of Collini and his lawyer.  It is sometimes an uncomfortable read showing both the perspective of the victim and the murderer.

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The Search for Anne Perry by Joanne Drayton
So not within the theme but talked about anyway,  Joanne Drayton is Associate Professor in the Department of Design at UNITEC, Auckland and is known for her biographies, especially that of her 2008 biography of crime writer, Ngaio Marsh.  The Search for Anne Perry is Drayton's fifth biography and focuses on tying examples of Anne Perry's Victorian crime novels with her past as an illustration of how she reveals herself through her writing.  According to the book's description "In 1994, director Peter Jackson released the film HEAVENLY CREATURES, based on a famous 1950s matricide committed in New Zealand by two teenage girls embroiled in an obsessive relationship. This film launched Jackson′s international career. It also forever changed the life of Anne Perry, an award-winning, bestselling crime writer, who at the time of the film′s release was publicly outed as Juliet Hulme, one of the murderers."  This book is a bit salacious and could do with tighter editing and better bridging between ideas and passages of Anne Perry's writing.  Here is an interesting review of the biography in the New Zealand Herald.  


Templar's Penance - A Knight's Templar Murder by Michael Jecks
Michael Jecks' Templar novels are set in the 1320s in the West Country in Britain and features ex-Templar and investigator Baldwin Furnshill and his friend Bailiff Simon Puttock.  In Templar's Penance, Baldwin and Simon are on pilgrimage across Europe to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and come across a young girl who was raped and murdered.  This is a wonderful medieval crime series and Baldwin and Simon are great companions for this pilgrimage and their other investigations. And you get to learn about the Knight Templars and what became of them during the time of Edward II of England and his consort Queen Isabella of France. 

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Agatha Christie
Two novels were recommended.  The Big Four and By The Pricking of My Thumbs.  The Big Four is a Hercule Poirot novel.  Poirot and Captain Hastings investigate the world domination conspiracy of the Big Four, and according to Wikipedia 'are typical ethnic and national stereotypes of 1920s British fiction, with the Chinese characters typecast as Fu-Manchu-esque bandits. Other key villains include a French femme fatale and a vulgar American multimillionaire. These characters implement consparicies and undetectable poisonings operated from a super-secret underground hideout.'  By The Pricking of My Thumbs features Tommy and Tuppence Beresford who investigate the retirement village, Sunny Ridge, where Tommy's Aunt Ida resides and ultimately dies.   


Laurie R King
American author Laurie R King writes a Sherlock Holmes pastiche which includes a completely new character, Mary Russell.  Mary is King's creation and becomes a Dr Watson replacement and wife of Sherlock Holmes.  If you can get past that change to canon, the two books recommended where, The Language of Bees and God of The Hive.  The story started in The Language of Bees continues in the God of The Hive and centres around an investigation into a religious cult called 'The Children of the Light', which has roots in Shanghai, China.  Set in 1924 in England, Scotland and Orkney Island, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes come across Holmes estranged son by Irene Adler and delve into the workings of Mycroft Holmes' government department.  Not for the Sherlock Holmes purists.

Hope you have found something that might want to read.  Unfortunately I will not be at the March meeting, however I will bring you the April recommendations, where the theme will be stories that involve frames, both literal and metaphorical.  

P.S.  Nancy Pearl is an American librarian who was the Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library in Seattle, Washington.  She is known for her idea of connecting with the reader without pretence.  Her 2003 book, Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason offers recommendations all based on the premise that it is more important to enjoy the book that you are reading.  She coined the 50 Page rule which is "If you still don't like a book after slogging through the first 50 pages, set it aside. If you're more than 50 years old, subtract your age from 100 and only grant it that many pages."  Words to live by.  Life is too short and you shouldn't waste it on a book you are not enjoying.